Working on the first ‘Annual’ triple j magazine was fun. Working with triple j we came up with four distinct sections – the A-Z of 2012, the J Award Winners and nominees (with commissioned illustrations of the winners), Summer’s best bands and What’s Up With 2013. Being the first issue of a special edition concept, it had its challenges: namely, figuring out what 2012 was defined by in the A-Z, and what 2013 would hold, but it came out great. The perfect binding, and extra-weight matte cover were the cherries on top.
See. Looks pretty cool, right?
Here’s a selection of my work.
ALABAMA Shakes lead all comers this year in the ‘whoa, where did they come from’ stakes. The quartet from Athens, Alabama, might have set South By Southwest alight in March with their beguiling old-timey fusion of r’n’b, blues and soul, but debut album Boys & Girls — and especially ubiquitous lead single ‘Hold On‘ — proved there was songwriting weight behind the hype.
“It’s very surreal,” frontwoman Brittany Howard laughs. “Walking out onstage and people cheering you just because you walked out… That’s just somethin’ else.”
It certainly helped that Brittany possess one of the most distinctive voices in music today: seemingly soaked in whiskey and imbued with a soulful growl reminiscent of Marvin Gaye or Bruce Springsteen — with the emotion and power of Etta James thrown in for good measure. Boys & Girls, though, is the culmination of the band figuring out their ‘ideal’ sound after Brittany pulled the band together three years ago.
“We have musicians here in Athens, but it’s rare to find someone who is like, ‘I want to write any kind of music,’” Brittany explains.
“I remember writing ‘Be Mine’, and it just happened. This kind of music came out, and it was like, ‘That’s it. That’s cool. That’s what we should do,’ because it felt right, you know. We could finally agree on something we all liked.”
The band wrote Boys & Girls over three years (“each song has a place in our lives, and each song is a reflection of that,” Brittany says) and recorded when they had the money and the time across an entire year in the “cheapest little studio we could find in Nashville”. That it has since gone around the world doesn’t mean the band are changing their approach to life.
“I don’t think so,” Brittany laughs. “We seem pretty normal. We don’t ask for much and we’re nice to people. I don’t ever plan on changing that formula; it seems to work.”
And that voice? According to Brittany, it comes down to simple hard work.
“Well, I’m just not scared to sing,” she says matter-of-factly.
“I don’t think I was born naturally a singer. I wanted to be in a band, and when I first started singing, I was terrible.
“I remember sitting in front of my stereo system singing the same songs over and over again, just because I liked them and [I was] being super nerdy. I’d sit there and sing along to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ over and over again. You know, I was really young and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard. That’s what made me better at singing. It’s a true statement that a voice is an instrument and you can exercise and get better at it.”
FEW bands can boast as whirlwind a 2012 as Vancouver duo Brian King and David Prowse, the gentlemen behind critical darlings Japandroids. The blogosphere was a-swoon with anticipation for their second album, Celebration Rock, and when it was actually released in June it elicited instant ‘best/most important album of 2012’ buzz from beardy critics everywhere. The band themselves quietly toured relentlessly and built a big fanbase on the back of their frenetic live show and no-frills, party-time rock’n’roll.
Drummer Dave (yep, he shares a name with the actor who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy) is adamant that the pair had no idea what was in store for them in 2012, but it’s starting “to feel a bit more normal: we’ve lived out of a van for a long time before [now]”.
“The biggest thing is being able to play all these new songs to people and really see how the new record has taken off in a different way to [2009 debut] Post-Nothing,” Dave says.
“Playing live is the reason I play in a band, y’know? It’s a pretty special thing to play your songs to people and have them sing along and take part in this ‘thing’ together. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
It wasn’t always so easy, though. Japandroids admit that when Post-Nothing suddenly blew up in late 2009 (thanks to assorted blogs and websites), they were essentially broken up after years of struggling to reach an audience. That success meant they were able to “do this thing” and tour Post-Nothing — and people were actually coming to shows.
But, as Dave explains, it also meant they if they couldn’t write a second album they were happy with, and that would enable them to tour again, they probably wouldn’t continue the band. “Before we even started thinking about another album, we said, ‘If we were gonna put out another record, it better be better than Post-Nothing, and if it’s not, then we’re just not going to release a record.’ There’s no point.”
So, as it turns out, the inspiration for Celebration Rock was primarily to write songs that Japandroids can simply keep playing live and not get sick of. “Yeah,” Dave laughs, “we thought, ‘If we’re gonna write some new songs, we’re most likely gonna have to play them a couple of hundred times live, so we better make sure we like these songs’.
With the arms-in-the-air riffs and grandiose hooks scattered across eight songs, there’s no shortage of good times on Celebration Rock. And then there are their go-to themes of wide open highways, heaven and hell, youthful excess and partying.
“Ha! Yeah. All the good stuff. I think people respond to that aspect, too. Our music is definitely music people like to have a good time to… People put on our records when they want to have fun and let loose.”
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD
SITTING in a north London park during their European tour, brothers Jake and Jamin Orrall are looking very much the worse for wear. Jamin is recovering from an asthma attack that saw them cancel their show last night in Bristol, but the Nashville duo’s performance this evening in Islington will be testament to the recuperative powers of rock’n’roll. JEFF the Brotherhood may be a long way from home, but they don’t leave a shred of energy unspent.
Their 2012 record Hypnotic Nights (named for “a daiquiri drink in New Orleans”) and lead single ‘Sixpack’ have seen the pair’s profile rise astronomically. The album is the band’s second release since they inked a distribution deal with Warner in 2011 for their DIY indie label Infinity Cat. After going it alone for so long (Hypnotic Nights is their seventh record — and they’re still in their early 20s), the pair seem ambivalent about the attention. “Yeah,” Jamin shrugs. “It’s cool.”
The Orralls co-produced Hypnotic Nights with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the first time the brothers have had a producer. It seems to have been a situation that was more hands-off than anyone anticipated.
“Yeah, we recorded it in about a week,” Jake says.
“It was more just he was hanging out while we recorded it,” Jamin laughs. “He helped us when we needed help. It definitely sounds better, though.”
Perhaps Dan could have helped instill in Jake a love of lyric-writing. Seems the more hirsute Orrall hates penning the words to layer over the top of JEFF the Brotherhood’s tremendous slabs of punky blues-rawk.
“I hate it,” he chuckles darkly. “I hate writing lyrics so much. We had some really good cuts on that last record that didn’t make it because the lyrics sucked too much.”
Jamin shakes his head in friendly disagreement. “But that’s what we get to finish for the next record! It’s like extra stuff.”
They play it similarly cool when talk turns to the ace video clip for ‘Sixpack‘.
“That’s just a river 50 miles from our place that we go to all the time and what the song’s about,” Jake explains.
Jamin grins. “It was like, ‘Let’s bring beer and video cameras,’ and [we] made a music video.”
It all seems part of JEFF the Brotherhood’s philosophy: don’t over-think anything and just enjoy the ride.
“We’ve been touring for seven years now, but it’s still fun,” Jake shrugs. “It’s still better than working at a fuckin’ grocery store like I was before we started doing this.”
BALL PARK MUSIC
NO LONGER just ‘rising stars’, in 2012 Ball Park Music cemented themselves in our collective consciousness with second album Museum. This much more mature yet still sparkling indie-pop effort came hot on the heels of the Brisbane five-piece’s 2011 debut, Happiness and Surrounding Suburbs. The short turnaround between records was a result of a burning desire to keep writing and being, well, able to, and frontman Sam Cromack figures the decision didn’t weigh too heavily on the band.
“Yeah, we were never really certain as to whether that was the right idea or not, but we were like, ‘Fuck it, we may as well do another album; we’ve got the songs, why not? If we disappear for two or three years, people might just forget who Ball Park Music are.’ Then you’ve got to start from scratch again.”
There’s something else, too. “That aside, Christ, we’re musicians! We love recording and playing. I don’t see why it should be seen as a chore to go and make another album.”
Museum was made surprisingly quickly, across only “probably 15 days in the actual studio,” says Sam, but it seems anything but rushed. This is a band who’ve grown, both musically and lyrically. Indeed, the title plays on the idea that the band are putting themselves and their artistic ideals on display.
“The first record was a culmination of years of playing live; this record is the five members of Ball Park Music doing a lot more of what they want to do. We wanted to showcase more of our musical interests, show that not every song has to be 150 BPM and have jangly guitars.
“Lyrically there’s plenty of love-and-misery kind of stuff… that’s what I write about. I definitely wanted to take a step away from being perceived as a fucking moron who just swore a lot and had clumsy opinions. That was a real goal: I wanted to express my actual lyrical interests a bit more, to still feel cheeky and playful like we had been, but to be more poetic, more descriptive and more imaginative. Really relate how I felt in a more abstract and interesting way.”
With a national tour wrapping in December, festival dates over summer (they also scored the coveted support for Weezer) and a new album for fans to sing along to, the Ball Park Music mission statement is simple. “We’ll be on the road, meeting new people, hopefully making new fans,” Sam says. “Our philosophy has always been to play to as many people as we can and do the best job we can at all times.”
2013: A Preview
What we’ll be playing next year
2012 delivered a ridiculous raft of blockbusters: Borderlands 2, Halo 4, Mass Effect 3, Diablo III, Max Payne 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, Journey, Darksiders II, and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II. With gaming now challenging film and TV for narrative and storytelling in some instances, our thumbs are already wriggling in anticipation of 2013. Check these out:
Grand Theft Auto V
Probably about only the most anticipated game of all time. The GTA series has been one of the biggest game franchises ever, and GTA V, which sees the action return to San Andreas (the mock California/Nevada state from GTA: San Andreas) and now split between three playable protagonists, will be unbelievably huge. How huge? Well, the franchise has sold over 100 million games, and the two teaser trailers that were released before the end of the year were dissected and discussed to the point of absurdity. Either way, the first GTA game since 2008 will cause all kinds of disruptions to the lives of lovers of open-world gaming mayhem.
The Last of Us
Naughty Dog, the team that brought the pretty awesome Uncharted series to life, will be delivering this great-looking new post-apocalyptic adventure-thriller in 2013. The story follows two characters working their way across a United States where a fungal disease wiped out ‘normal‘ humans, mutated others and given rise to kinda-zombies. The trailer from E3 showcases some freakin‘ brutal and harrowing gameplay on top of some startling environments. And now we can’t wait to play it.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
From the trailer alone, it seems that South Park: The Stick of Truth could conceivably be the most disturbing yet funniest game of 2013. It combines the gameplay elements of an action/adventure and a fantasy role-playing game with all the homage/mocking pop culture references South Park have always managed to pull off to perfection. The best part is that it’s an RPG, so you’re basically joining the South Park gang. Well, that and the combo of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter et al Cartman and pals are riffing on. Which is awesome.
Since The Sims took off in such a big way over the last decade, it’s been a long time between drinks for the original pillar of the Sims franchise, SimCity. The world-building game that launched a million city-planning careers in the mid-‘90s is back for the first time in eight years, and it looks a million bucks. Weirdly hyper-realistic, the super-impressive CGI makes it looks like you’re going to be dictating events in a fantastical tiny Lego-meets-the-Smurfs-meets-Wallace-and-Gromit-claymation world.
Just like Superman, Batman and Spiderman before her, much-loved uber-babe Lara Croft is up for a reboot. And you know they’re serious, ‘cause she’s wearing pants (not her famous short shorts). This is ‘young‘ Lara Croft, and it means she’s not quite the overall badarse we know, which is going to make the game all the more challenging and fun, no doubt.
Other cool stuff being released next year: BioShock Infinite, Professor Layton and Super Civilisation ‘A’, a project titled ‘Destiny’ by Bungie (the peeps behind Halo), Gears Of War: Judgment, anything to do with Skyrim, Crysis 3 and, of course, Half-Life 3.
2013: A Preview.
Where to go
Travel experts give us the inside track on the places you should go before everybody else does
WORDS: Jaymz Clements
FOR travel junkies out there, life can be a constant search for the next ultimate experience, the next gem that no one but you and a few others know about. There’s a certain cachet to being among the first to enjoy a slice of the planet that hasn’t already been trampled by the touristy hordes. But there’s also something to be said to getting the most out of places that don’t get as much attention as they perhaps deserve. So we’re here to help guide you through some of the travel gems of 2013!
Just off the south-eastern coast of Croatia, Hvar is an island with glorious weather and the feeling that you’re in a pocket of the world untouched by the rigours of normal life. Travel writer Adam Baidawi explains Hvar’s appeal as “the Mediterranean as it ought to be (read: less pasty Poms)”.
It’s just far enough away from the well-worn tourist paths through the Mediterranean and eastern Europe that it’s still value for money, and it’s not over-populated with the cheap-booze-and-party types you’ll find in certain Spanish or Greek islands.
As you can get there without too much difficulty from the regional capital Split, Adam contends you’ll end up spending your days trying to decide “between sand dune buggys, beach lazing and reassuringly cheap booze”. Sounds great, right? Right.
The peculiar land of Björk and Sigur Rós is one of the hottest tips for travel in 2013. Travel blogging couple Amy Howard and Kieron Turner say that Iceland’s best bits are the “friendly people, incredible landscapes from volcanoes to glaciers and a legendary nightlife that just has to be experienced”.
Fellow travel blogger Lauren Burvill concurs. Iceland is “the coolest place in the world right now, literally and figuratively,” she argues. “Go to Instagram yourself senseless swimming in the Blue Lagoon. Stay for a midnight pub crawl in Reykjavik and (if you can time it right) the best music festival you’ll attend all year: Iceland Airwaves.”
Amy and Kieron agree. “Iceland is cool, it’s hip and you might even be lucky enough to see the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights.”
Also check out the freewheeling Aldrei Fór Ég Suður (I Never Went South) music festival that we profiled in our October/November Discovery issue. And, of course, Game of Thrones film their wintery scenes there! In 2012 they were up around Lake Mývatn, while in 2011 it was at the Vatnajökull glacier.
It’s a little-known fact that parts of Micronesia aren’t, in fact, microscopic. A lot of it is, however, quite beyond lovely. The island Republic of Palau is a travel gem, situated on the far edge of Micronesia, all by its lonesome in the Philippine sea.
As travel blogger Lauren Burvill explains, Palau is the real deal when it comes to getting away from it all. “The fact that the Micronesian island put a bunch of Americans through rough times on the reality show Survivor just makes me like Palau even more. For a true island holiday free of touristy crap, Palau is the stuff of mermaid wet-dreams.”
She’s right. Think of a chain of stunning limestone islands, with reefs aplenty you can dive and snorkel to your heart’s content (check the Second World War naval wrecks). Wander the untouched beaches and even go swimming in Jellyfish Lake (they’re non toxin-y jellyfish).
Songdo, South Korea
One of the most ambitious — and as yet, completely unknown — cities in the world also happens to be its newest. Created from the ground up only a decade ago on reclaimed land 60km out of Seoul, Songdo isn’t ‘finished‘ yet, but that doesn’t matter, according to Kate Schneider, travel editor of news.com.au.
“The world’s newest city is not to be missed,” she says. “Songdo is aiming to become the new Las Vegas, replicating landmarks such the Venice canals and New York’s Central Park. Of course, it will also create its own skyscrapers, including the planned 151-floor Incheon Tower.”
Songdo is a ‘future city’ that’s sustainable and completely interconnected via video tech, and even though it won’t be done till 2015, Kate says “there’s still plenty for tourists to see”.
Tricomalee, Sri Lanka
Sure, Lonely Planet may have just labelled Sri Lanka travel destination numero uno for 2013, but we’re about specifics. In particular, the north-east. Beat the rush and head towards Trincomalee and the empty, exquisite beaches just north of one of the best spots for diving and snorkelling you’re likely to find (it also won’t cost you the earth). It’s not all beaches, either. Scattered around that north eastern district are an abundance of fascinating plantlife and wildlife, cultural and heritage sites (Trincomalee’s natural harbour is a sight in itself) and tremendous local food.
Sri Lanka is not a destination for fainthearted, however. The country’s history — a long civil war and the tsunami of 2006 — means you ought to be sensitive to your surroundings and mindful of your actions.
From Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Isla del Sol, Bolivia…
Here’s a quick 2013 trip tip that will have everybody you know jealous of your exploits. Start at Buenos Aires, which Australian Traveller’s Quentin Long calls an “awesomely cool city with great suburbs and loads to do. South America’s hippest city it’s worth a visit just for the bars and cafes.” Then work your way up through Argentina (try to see Igazu Falls on the border with Brazil if you can), Paraguay, jump over to Peru and then into Bolivia to check out Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. This way you can check out the delights of South America, and end up basically in one of the nicest spots in the world. Isla del Sol will cleanse your soul as you check out the Rock of the Puma and an alleged fountain of youth — plus it’s the mythological birthplace of the sun god. Trust us with this one, just do it.
2013: A Preview
Tech: Gadgets ahoy
Some sweet tech stuff to look forward to
Flexible, waterproof phones (and TVs)
Sure the iPhone 5S or Samsung Galaxy S IV would be cool, but how about waterproof phones that bend and twist? Thanks to nano technology. next time your phone goes for an embarrassing toilet-dive, it could be coated in a microscopic waterproof layer… And thanks to OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology, we could be able to bend the phones every-which-way, simulating wringing them of the water. Awesome. Combine that with the increased presence of Near Field Communication (enabling you to pay for things with your phone) and our lives will be even more tied to these devices.
Augmented reality is definitely headed our way, as Google are working on glasses that could overlay info onto what you’re seeing, and mobile phone developers are incorporating it into mobile operating systems. You’d point your phone’s camera at something, and it will be able to relay info about it back to you. Cool, right? We should also see these using new memristor chips — computer chips that ‘learn‘ — that will enable machines to think. And GIVE RISE TO THE TERMINATOR.
Beyond cars that can reverse park themselves will be the widening of the range of cars that will be able to sense their environment, whether it be the distance to the car in front of you or how much space there is to the sides of the road. Proper cruise control! It’s almost Transformers! There’s also MIT’s tiny ‘foldable’ electric ‘CityCar’ that takes up a third of a car space. It’s super green, and super affordable (just don’t bank on driving it to a festival: no room for the couch, or esky). And don’t forget the now mass-produced electric car, the Tesla. With petrol prices so high, this is a bit handy, dontcha think?
New consoles + 3D TV
We might have the Xbox One or Playstation 4 in 2013: we can hope, right? Games publishers have started developing titles for the next generation of consoles, but games technology will be a tricky one to predict over the next five years. Will we even want a closed-tech one-stop-shop console when we could be running everything through a phone or tablet? Who knows. But combined with 3D OLED TVs, all that 3D printing we’ll be doing soon and integrated online streaming, it’s going to be great fun finding out.